The Grand Duchy of ..... Alaska?

By B0900223 | Forgotten History | 4 Jun 2021

Most people do not know this but the United States was not the first country to be offered to buy Alaska. There were other countries that were offered to buy the large mass of land west of Canada. One of those countries was Liechtenstein. But why was Liechtenstein offered to buy Alaska since it is a small landlocked country with only 40,000 people and even less at the time Alaska was offered? And what would've happened with Alaska had the country actually bought it. 

Could Liechtenstein actually afford to buy Alaska?

Could the Principality of Liechtenstein actually afford to buy the territory of Alaska from the Russians? The short answer is no. The long answer is the country could not afford to buy the land, but the royal family on the other hand could. To understand how this could be, you have to understand what Liechtenstein is. The principality only exists to give the House of Liechtenstein land. The house of Liechtenstein was a very wealthy Austrian family and they owned much land, especially in Silesia. The land was given to give the family a royal title. That being said, the land itself was not wealthy, the royal family was. If Liechtenstein elected to buy Alaska when offered by the Russians, the royal family would've paid for it and not the country. Therefore Alaska would've been de facto a private Austrian colony but de jure a colony of the principality of Liechtenstein.

Why would Russia offer Alaska to Liechtenstein?

With all the political considerations of the day, why would Russia offer to Liechtenstein the territory of Alaska before the United States or any other nation? The answer is the royal family. The house of Liechtenstein was very close with the Russian Tsars. They almost acted as representatives for the Hapsburg Dynasty to the Tsars. Prince Franz of Liechtenstein spoke Russian and dealt extensively with Slavic culture and even created an institute in Vienna for it.

Whether the Russians ever actually intended to have the house of Liechtenstein buy Alaska can be debated. They may have just wanted to start an auction to get the best price on the land. If the house of Liechtenstein gave Russia an affordable offer it could've enticed other countries to try to buy the land for cheap until Russia got a good price. Russia was in a deep financial crisis and pulling this off would've been a big help to the financial situation of the Russian empire. Unfortunately for the Tsars, Liechtenstein didn't accept the offer to buy the territory of Alaska. They had to make an offer to the United States where the land was purchased for pennies per acre. 

What would've happened had Liechtenstein bought Alaska?

What would the people of Liechtenstein do with the territory of Alaska if they actually bought it. The principality of Liechtenstein had about 10,000 people at the time the purchase would've taken place. Colonizing Alaska would've been difficult, if not, impossible. They likely would have sold the land at a later time when it became more strategic and therefore more valuable. It is unlikely that Liechtenstein would have held on to the entire territory by 1890 when the Alaskan gold rush was set to begin. They either would've sold all of Alaska or parts of it to the world powers. If they kept All of Alaska or parts of it for themselves, they would face fierce competition for gold from the American and Canadian settlers who would undoubtedly out settle the small principality. To have a shot at keeping the land, Liechtenstein would have to open settlement to Germans, Austrians, and Scandanavians. Many of these settlers settled in the United States and South America so them settling in Alaska would change the demographics of these regions in this scenario. This would populate the land enough to compete with Americans and Canadians settling in the region and possibly create a population large enough for a police force or standing army to keep the peace.

If we assume Austria still loses World War I, what happens to Alaska depends on How much Liechtenstein participates in the war. If Liechtenstein actually participates in the war and joins the central powers, Alaska is likely taken by the British or the Americans, however, if Liechtenstein remains neutral, they will likely let them keep Alaska. Because the Austrians would've been crippled from the war, Liechtenstein would grow closer to Switzerland and rely on them for an economic partner.

However, by World War II Liechtenstein would likely become a territory of Alaska rather than the other way around as many Europeans settle Alaska after gold has been discovered. Liechtenstein would probably begin to be treated as an American nation with territory in Europe as far as geopolitics is concerned. Most of its territory, wealth, and power would be in Alaska by this time making it the dominant territory in the country. Liechtenstein is likely safe during world war two as Austria is taken peacefully by Germany and Switzerland is never invaded so the war never makes it to the country's European borders. Because Alaska is owned by Liechtenstein, a significant chunk of the pacific war never happens as the United States never has to fight japan for the Aleutian Islands. Alaska would remain a neutral territory in the war as provoking the country would've been equivalent to provoking Switzerland, economically problematic and militarily pointless. While Japan could use the Aleutian Islands to bomb other Areas in the Pacific or west coast, with Alaska in this scenario being mostly German, taking over the territory to do so would upset their German allies in Europe and therefore would likely not have happened. Everything else after the second world war is up to speculation, how the world wars look in terms of alliances and battles is up to speculation to so even this scenario isn't probably as much of geopolitics changes with germans settling Alaska. 

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I am an Engineering Management student at a university that will not be named. I enjoy religious and political discussions.

Forgotten History
Forgotten History

If history is a story, there are many plot holes. This blog seeks to fill major plot holes in the historical narrative. This blog is about historical topics, events, and peoples that have been forgotten by the public and academia. This blog will seek to educate its readers on historical subjects not taught in schools or by the media. This blog will also seek to educate its readers as to why a historical topic, event, or people group is ignored by major institutions whether they be sinister or otherwise.

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